Banquet has served its very last meal

SINGAPORE - Halal foodcourt operator Banquet has thrown in the kitchen towel, just as shop rents escalate and firms struggle with the manpower crunch.

The home-grown chain, which opened in 2000, had 46 outlets in its heyday. By last year, only 14 remained. This number dwindled to just five outlets by June this year.

And now there are none, going by MyPaper checks.

Rival operator Kopitiam has taken over the outlets at VivoCity, HarbourFront Centre and Jurong Point.

NTUC Foodfare will replace Banquet's outlet in Clifford Centre in Raffles Place next month, according to a notice in the mall, and the outlet in IMM Building is now managed by Teck Kee, which also runs House of Steamboat in Bugis.

All the new eateries are halal foodcourts.

Calls to Banquet's owner, Mr Alan Lee, went unanswered, but a spokesman for Kopitiam said that it was approached by the landlords of the malls to be the new tenant.

According to two stallholders who did not want to be named, Banquet still owes them some money.

Ms Sarah Lim, a retail lecturer from Singapore Polytechnic, said that the chain was likely a victim of high rents and manpower costs, which "may have pushed them into the red".

Pointing out that it may have expanded too fast, she added: "There are also so many new players with modern foodcourts and interesting themes."

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